The simplest distinction my mind can reason is this: I should care for people rather than caring for how people evaluate me. But, my ears cannot hear this distinction. All I hear is “you shouldn’t care about people.” So, I take a second look, and my second look carries emotional polemics: “he’s an individualist and doesn’t care about the community,” “he’s self-sufficient and doesn’t think he needs anyone,” or “he’s indifferent to those he tramples over.” These polemics identify the “healthy” person as arrogant and selfish.
I haven’t stopped “caring for people” yet. I imagine that it must look like cussing someone out. It must look like abandoning my friends. It must look like identifying a goal and destroying anyone who restrains or resists my efforts. But, my mind can reason a simple distinction which my ears cannot hear: “stop caring about their evaluation of you.”
Unfortunately, we are not the merely cognitive creatures, as we relate ourselves to be. Relationships are interactive: giving and receiving, asking and answering, talking and listening, offending and suffering offense. I may have the cognitive insight necessary to change a mere mind. But I do not have the relationship necessary to experience change.
I will never be the assertive man who ignores his wife. I will never be the rugged cowboy who proclaims the self-sufficiency of a self-made man. And for now, I remain, the generous person who blindly denies his selfishness.
Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner, unable to please the Father without faith. The pendulum of morality swings wide in rejection of evil, so that the perpetrators are shamed and I join them in a new way. But you never rejected sin in pursuit of pleasure. No. You rejected sin out of a long, suffering obedience. But I still want to be a good person more than I want to be united to You.
I don’t mind being this vulnerable. Pseudo-virtues can be perverted. Voluntary vulnerability retains control and does not encroach on what is denied. So applaud me. I’m accustom to it. Or, if you want to help, pray in alignment with Hebrews 4:13: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”